Thursday, February 17, 2011

Contact Fields vs Historic Data

It seems we have had several conversations recently with different users who are having trouble seeing the difference between fields -- attributes of a contact/account -- and historic data. I suppose this is perpetuated by the fact that most companies exist in spreadsheets where the only option is to add more columns, regardless of what's being tracked. But, the best way to manage things like "next action" or "last order date" is not as a field on the contact, it's as historic data.

Let me give a concrete example. You may have a spreadsheet with columns for name, company, phone, email, and a myriad of other data fields. Those are all relatively fixed attributes of the contact. With few exceptions, these are not dynamically changing fields.

However, if you're an active prospector, then you may have a few other columns called "notes" or "next call date." You may currently use a process whereby you sort your spreadsheet by "next call date" and look back to the notes to see what you most recently spoke to the prospect about. This is the common, albeit very limiting, workflow that many small businesses use in lieu of true CRM when they are unaware of solutions like AddressTwo.

Then, the day comes when you're ready to migrate to AddressTwo -- you're ready to really use a CRM to make your sales more productive and more efficient. Great! The first thing you need to know is that those fields are not fields, they're historic data.

In a CRM like AddressTwo, you have contact data fields (which you can import yourself) such as name, company, phone, email, and a slew of others. But the historic data -- the history of calls, appointments, and even a record of future actions yet to be completed -- is quite a different animal. And, importing it from other sources can be tricky. This is why it is a service that our staff performs for a fee. But, once set up properly, the efficiencies it produces are immeasurable.

So, when you're ready to import your data, ask yourself: am I importing fields or historic data?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

CRM and Communication -- One Tool, One Solution

News released early this morning has flooded my inbox with emails from friends, customers, and colleagues who all want to say, "Oh my gosh, did you see this?"  Constant Contact, a widely used email marketing company, is reported to have acquired a lesser-known CRM company in order to meld the two technologies together.

To which we reply: "Right.... just like we've been doing for a couple years already."

You see, it didn't take me long to realize as I was building AddressTwo in the early days that CRM goes hand in hand with outboud marketing communication for small businesses.  The same group of people that you need to record notes for and schedule follow-up tasks for, you also need to stay in touch with in a collective manner. 

That's why AddressTwo has had a built-in email marketing function for quite some time, since the earliest releases.  The later iteration, the Campaign Manager, added automation to that broadcast capability.  Not only can you send one email, but you can schedule entire series of communication.  And, the I intentionally chose the name "Campaign Manager" because I foresaw that this functionality would not always be limited to email.  It foreshadowed a greater solution that, today, as our biggest competitors announce that they finally have caught up to us, puts AddressTwo still one step ahead of the rest.

As of today, the Campaign Manager's two new features -- postcard marketing and SMS/text message broadcast -- are being beta tested by our Partner Providers.  By March, we hope to have these tools available to all users.  While the rest of the industry is just now combining email and CRM, we're combining email, postcards, and text messaging with CRM. 

Why?  Because we know what small businesses need.  We are a small business.  And we will always be THE solution for small business CRM!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Importing Contacts from Outlook

Importing contacts from Microsoft Outlook is a two-step process, beginning first with the export from Outlook. Once exported, you will use the CSV Import process in AddressTwo to import your fields.

  1. In Outlook, click the Contacts tab to display your complete contact list (as opposed to the standard inbox view).
  2. Click on File >> Import and Export
  3. Select "Export to a File" and click Next.
  4. Select "Comma Separated Value (Windows)" and click Next.
  5. Be sure that your Contacts folder is selected as the data to be exported.
  6. Tell it where to save this file (your desktop will suffice.
Next (optionally) you can clean up the CSV before import. Double-clicking the newly created CSV file should open in Excel, or whatever your default spreadsheet software is. There, you will see that Windows adds gobs of unnecessary columns. There are umpteen different phone numbers, home, business, mobile, and even ISDN for heaven's sake. If you're the average user, the majority of these columns will be empty and only cause confusion upon import. I recomend deleting any unused fields and re-saving the file.

Note: Excel will always warn you about saving a CSV file. This is OK. Just press OK.

Now, inside AddressTwo, click on Admin...
  1. Under the Contact Management area, click on Upload Contacts.
  2. Select the CSV option. The first screen is informational only. You can proceed to upload.
  3. Upload the newly created file and click "Proceed"
  4. Map your fields... IMPORTANT do not skip this step. You must tell AddressTwo what each of your column headings from the spreadsheet mean to AddressTwo.
  5. Finally, you can proceed with the import and all your contacts will be added.